Welcome to another week.

The High Court in Bombay, India, has ruled that denying mothers custody under certain circumstances amounts to domestic violence. 

The case involved a couple whose marriage broke down shortly after it began. The mother gave birth to a boy who arrived prematurely. It is alleged that the mother’s in-laws then decided to prevent the mother from caring for the baby, even going so far as to prevent her from touching him. They had taken the view that the mother was not mature enough to care for her baby, was often cruel to the baby and her inability to breastfeed was also harming the baby.

The mother claimed she was being so badly emotionally abused by her in-laws that she was eventually forced to flee to her parents’ home.

The mother subsequently filed for, and was awarded interim custody of her son under the country’s Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (DV) Act, 2005.

The father tried to block the application for interim custody arguing amongst other things that his son needed proper treatment which he could only get in Mumbai. However, the High Court upheld the original order citing the view that a denial of interim contact would result in the mother’s mental health being harmed which was in itself a form of domestic violence.

Counsel for the mother:

“There is no connection between lack of lactation and motherly attachment to one’s own baby. By seeking child’s custody, wife has shown that she is concerned about his welfare and desirous of giving him love. The baby is so small that his being with mother would only help him grow and develop.” 

The court went on to remind the parties that contact orders were only temporary and could be changed at any time.

Setting aside the facts of this case for a moment, the High Court ruling raises an interesting point about domestic abuse in the context of parenting, a point which could be applied equally to fathers.

Currently, the act of blocking contact is talked about using terms like Parental Alienation, whether this behaviour is a psychological disorder, and whether in fact alienation is a ‘real’ phenomenon (which Researching Reform believes it is, though we are not convinced about it being a mental health illness). This case frames the behaviour in an alternative way.

So, our question this week, is just this: do you think denial of contact could amount to domestic abuse? 

Many thanks to Charles Pragnell for sharing this news item with us.

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